Discipline and self-accountability soul to armed forces


Waheed Hussain

Discipline and self-accountability are the soul to armed forces. It’s the discipline which makes an army efficient, strong, powerful, and formidable. Many other state institutions have been suffering from poor performance, inefficiencies, internal disintegration, as they always compromised on discipline, merit and accountability. Reward and punishment were the yardstick to make the armed forces, the best functional institutions in the country.

It has been a great debate that majority of civilian state institutions in the country have been bitterly damaged, effecting their efficiencies-performance except the Armed Forces of Pakistan. The merit-based promotion policy coupled with reward and punishment criteria made the armed forces exclusive and dependable. Naturally, If the armed forces had not been following the tough policy of reward and punishment, then the morale and spirit to fight for the security and defense of the country would have been on the slide.

The Director General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Ahmed Sharif Chaudhry held a comprehensive, thought-provoking news conference on Monday, 26 May, 2023, at Rawalpindi, mainly disclosing the details about a disciplinary action that had been taken against all those army officers who had demonstrated negligence to their assigned duties on the May 9 violent protests by the PTI leaders and workers as a result of the arrest of their chairman and former prime minister.

Looking into the May 9 violent incidents throughout the country it reflects that there was a planning and strategy to target mainly the military installations. In this process, the violent protestors also attacked the monuments of the Shuhadas (martyrs) badly hurting the feeling of both the Shuhadas’ families and the entire nation. Shuhadas are the national heroes, who scarified their lives in defending the motherland. They are above all political vengeance and divide. Apart from action against the protestors, there have been a lot of speculations and rumors about action against senior commanders with reference to 9 May incidents. So, the articulated announcement made by the Army Spokesperson regarding strict action against those army officers who displayed negligence in performing their duties at various levels, addressed the questions being raised by both masses and the media.

The General told reporters that three officers have been removed from the service including a three-star Lieutenant General failing in performing their duties on 9 May violent protest, was a sheer example of the policy of discipline- reward and punishment. The story of taking action against those who showed negligence does not end here, it was informed that 15 other high-ranking officers, including three major generals and seven brigadiers were passing through a tough inquiry process, by two different committees, headed by two Major Generals. This shows the sensitivity of the matter.

When the army books (rules, regulations, laws) say that army operates on the policy of discipline-reward and punishment, then what does it mean? It means merit, a tough process of selection and promotion to next grade/position.

Reaching to a level of Lieutenant General was a very hard process of more than 35 years’ service including going through number of courses and degrees achieved from prestigious war colleges-universities within and outside Pakistan.

Total 18 officer went through the strict screening of the inquiry was a message to all those who were involved in that heinous crime that if the army can take action against its own senior most commanders, it would not spare the criminals, who violated law of the land.

The General Sharif reiterated that it was a well-planned, preconceived conspiracy against army and state, involving people from other countries. He said all it was done for the political gain, to regain the power.

Lot of voices have been raised on the issue of civilians’ trial in the military courts. The Supreme Court of Pakistan was already hearing the petitions in this regard. The DG ISPR informed that 102 cases of accused have been taken up by the 17 different military courts throughout the country. “All those courts were already in operation; no new courts were established,” he informed. Actually, those cases were referred by the Anti-Terrorist Courts’ judges to the military courts. The parliament and the governments in past had allowed civilians trials in the military courts and this time again the government approved trials of the accused of May 9, in the Military Courts. The government senior ministers and military spokesperson have been clarifying that even if the Military Courts decide or pass an order against an accused, he or she enjoyed the legal right to appeal to Chief of Army Staff (COAS), High Courts and finally the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

There had been lot of debate on the human rights violations during raids, arrests, investigation and court proceedings of the arrested by the law enforcement agencies, legal and judicial officers. The voices were being raised by few US Congress members, international human rights organizations after May 9. Replying to a question on the issue of human rights, the DG (ISPR) said that it was a fake propaganda by the anti-Pakistan elements who wants to defame the country and its armed forces. There should not be any doubt that Pakistan Army was the main target in this whole process.

However, from human rights point of view, the government and its law enforcement agencies must be careful in performing their duties that the innocent should not be punished just because he or she were the follower or member of a particular political party.

We had the history of political victimization by various governments of opposition’s MNAs, MPAs, Senators, party leadership and workers. Before signing the Charter of Democracy (COD) by the PML (N) and PPP in London, in 2006, both of them had been facing each other’s politically motivated cases. After 2018 elections, PTI followed the same crush opposition policy and launched severe crackdown against both PML (N) and PPP, arresting their top leadership by using the controversial National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) cases. Today you can see those who were either in jail or facing the money laundering-corruption charges, had been cleared by the two top agencies (NAB-FIA) followed by the courts. and they are ruling this government as Mr “Clean.” Instead of focusing on the governance and economy, the former Prime Minister was guided by some exclusive political scientists to crush opposition. Such dirty political culture needs to end. Our politicians did not want to learn from their past, while, this cycle of crush opposition policy will continue to operate.

Some people from the west are raising the question of human rights violation issue related to the May 9 violent protests. They need to be educated and told that what happened to those criminals who attacked the Capitol Hill (a building having Upper and Lower Houses of Congress, the House of Representative and the Senate in America) during the Donald Trump’s presidency. According to details, 1000 people were charged and punished in Capitol Hill attack. The US administration and courts followed the law of the land so that next time no criminal dare to conceive such a satanic idea. There must be a distinction between criminals and peaceful citizens. Law abiding citizen do have all kind of rights ensured by the constitution of Pakistan, but the law breakers must be punished to create a harmony and peace in the society. Criminals could not be forgiven. They must not be forgiven.

On the question of identifying the mastermind of May 9 violence, the DG (ISPR) seemed very careful. He did not give a news to the reporters, as they were expecting, but at the same time, he said that those were the mastermind who had been promoting anti-Pakistan Army narrative.

There was a question on the closeness of the PDM government and army. We must understand that armed forces are part of the government. They have their constitutional role to play. The basic role of the Army is to guard the frontiers of the country. To secure the country from all internal and external threats. So, the army cannot operate in isolation.

Institutional harmony was important for peace and security and smooth functioning of the country. Here the reporter question gave an impression that army was playing a political role to favor some XYZ political party. Former Army Chief General Qamar Javeed Bajwa in one of his addresses to the officers, soldiers and their families openly said that Army has become neutral and will not play any political role. It is important for all the state institutions to operate in their assigned role by the constitution of Pakistan. The problem begins when the individuals on the top positions try to intrude into others domain. We must learn from the past and should not repeat the same blunders.